- by Rob Taylor Rating:8 Release Date:2016-10-28 Label: Omnibus Press
Through the prism of her son, Wyatt’s, and son, Bo’s philosophical musings and observations, Kristin Hersh reflects on her life's journey, the adventures and the misadventures. She explores her fallibilities and to some extent, infallibility, and finds a shred of contentment through the strength of love.
Kristin Hersh has always been a great songwriter, not only in the music she writes, but her ability to express rage and poignancy in equal measure. She mourns, she scorns, her well-judged affection or disapprobation of the characters within her songs palpable and real. Her songs are not driven by ego but by a strong sense of the things that make us all human. Real emotional responses. Pathos.
Compare the mournfulness of ‘Nerve Endings’ from How to Sing Like a Star, with the conspicuous rage of ‘Your Dirty Answer’ from Sunny Border Blue, amongst many other examples.
Wyatt at Coyote Palace is a double album and book that will not disappoint the expectations of Hersh’s fan-base. While recording this album, Hersh’s son, Wyatt explored a nearby abandoned premises, long given over to a band of wild coyotes that slept there. The fact that the roof caved in one day (fortunately not with Wyatt in it) became a metaphor for Hersh’s capacity to draw positivity from memory even in the wake of disaster or near disaster, or near death……”He [Wyatt] wanted to keep it encapsulated in a sense memory, untouchable under the glass of his own filter…..in order to leave the place pristine through his own lens” Wyatt was able to walk away from the Coyote Palace’s destruction with his prior memory of it intact.
Each of the songs on Wyatt at Coyote Palace is a discrete memory of Hersh’s, be it one from her drug addled teenage years, or later while balancing family responsibility and art.
As a teenager, coke in the summer, and pot in the winter was the norm amongst her friends. When a girlfriend found her puking one evening she remonstrated “its not gonna snow for a long time”. ‘Guadalupe’ is a song to her lady, Guadalupe seeking help from such perceived near-death experiences, and ‘Detox’ explores Hersh and friends seeking alternatives, such as making gazpacho and eating it stooped in a cold, moldy hall where the street hookers hung out.
There’s a recipe for 'Hooker Gazpacho' in the book.
Making a double album with 24 songs, it was going to be difficult to maintain quality songwriting control, but Wyatt at Coyote Palace is remarkably consistent, and occasionally brilliant, with the standouts being ‘Hemingway’s Tell’, ‘Detox’, ‘Diving Bell’ and ‘Elysian Fields’, but there’s several other tracks that simmer into your consciousness over time, such as the deceptively simple but incredibly catchy ‘Bubble Net’.
Characteristically, Hersh combines strumming at various speeds with elegant finger picking, the result being that the songs have something of a mixed personality, rising from a fireside chat to a rousing and frenetic call to arms. Much like Hersh I suspect, beautiful soul that she is, being angry, bemused, philosophical and calm in the space of a minute. Hersh’s voice modulates between adorably cute, and abruptly frightening, as she bellows out her point with a chameleon-like huskiness.
Her son, Bo told her that snakes shed their skin to avoid suffocation. Her son, Wyatt spoke of crossing a threshold into a new life, and one senses that Hersh heeds the meaning as she sings away her demons on Wyatt at Coyote Palace.